Burn with CO/CN Toxicity

This case is written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a staff emergency physician in Hamilton, Ontario and the Simulation Director of McMaster University’s FRCP-EM program. She is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EmSimCases.

Why it Matters

The management of patients with significant burns obtained in an enclosed space involves several important components. This case nicely highlights three key management considerations:

  • The need to intubate early in anticipation of airway edema that may develop
  • The possibility of cyanide toxicity in the context of hypotension and a high lactate, and the need to treat early with hydroxycobalamin
  • The importance of recognizing and testing for possible CO toxicity (and initiating 100% oxygen upon patient arrival)

Clinical Vignette

A 33-year-old female has just been brought into your tertiary care ED. She was dragged out of a house fire and is unresponsive. The etiology of the fire is unclear, but the home was severely damaged. The EMS crew that transported her noted significant burns across her chest, abdomen, arm, and leg.

Case Summary

A 33 year-old female is dragged out of a burning house and presents to the ED unresponsive. She has soot on her face, singed eyebrows, and burns to her entire chest, the front of her right arm, and part of her right leg. She is hypotensive and tachycardic with a GCS of 3. The team should proceed to intubate and fluid resuscitate. After this, the team will receive a critical VBG result that reveals profound metabolic acidosis, carboxyhemoglobin of 25 and a lactate of 11. If the potential for cyanide toxicity is recognized and treated, the case will end. If it is not, the patient will proceed to VT arrest.

Download the case here: Burn CO CN Case

ECG for the case found here:


ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/sinus-tachycardia/

CXR for the case found here:

CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg

MVC with Tension Pneumothorax

This case is written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a staff emergency physician in Hamilton, Ontario and the Simulation Director of McMaster University’s FRCP-EM program. She is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EmSimCases.

Why it Matters

This case is a great example of challenging junior learners to a place that is just outside their comfort zone. Becoming comfortable with a primary and secondary survey is an important part of training in Emergency Medicine. Further, this case highlights the following:

  • The need to clinically recognize a possible tension pneumothorax and intervene immediately with needle decompression or finger thoracostomy
  • The challenge of performing/delegating multiple simultaneous interventions in a trauma patient
  • The importance of reassessing the patient and searching for multiple possible causes of hypotension

Clinical Vignette

EMS arrives with a 44-year-old male to your tertiary care ED. The trauma team has been activated. He was the driver in a single vehicle MVC at highway speed. There was extensive damage to the car. He is currently screaming and moaning.

Case Summary

A 44 year-old male arrives by EMS to a tertiary care ED where the trauma team has been activated. He was the driver in a single-vehicle MVC. He presents screaming and moaning with a GCS of 13. He has an obvious open fracture of his right forearm. He also has decreased air entry to the right side of his chest. The team will need to recognize the tension pneumothorax as part of their primary survey. They will then need to irrigate and splint the right arm after they have completed their secondary survey. As the secondary survey is being completed, the patient will become hypotensive again. This time, the team will find free fluid in the RUQ.

Download the case here: MVC with Tension PTX

ECG for the case found here:


(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/sinus-tachycardia/)

Initial CXR for the case found here:

Tension PTX

(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/tension-pneumothorax-9)

PXR for the case found here:


(PXR source: http://radiopaedia.org/articles/pelvis-1)

Second CXR for the case (post chest-tube insertion) found here:

R chest tube post PTX

(CXR source: http://jtd.amegroups.com/article/view/663/html)

FAST showing free fluid in the RUQ found here:


U/S showing no PCE found here:

(All U/S images are courtesy of McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

Anaphylaxis (+/- Laryngospasm)

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a staff physician practising in the Greater Toronto Area. She completed her Emergency Medicine training at McMaster University and also completed a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education.

Why it Matters

Anaphylaxis is a fairly frequent presentation to the ED. However, severe anaphylaxis requiring multiple epinephrine doses and airway management is quite rare. This case is challenging on its own merit simply due to the stress of intubating an impending airway obstruction. However, if learners are faced with laryngospasm as a complication of anaphylaxis, this case takes on even more important lessons, including:

  • The surprising and unexpected nature of laryngospasm
  • The role of Larson’s point in trying to resolve laryngospasm
  • How quickly children desaturate, and develop resultant bradycardia, as a consequence of laryngospasm

For an excellent review of the management of laryngospasm, click here.

Clinical Vignette

A 7-year-old boy arrives via EMS with increased work of breathing. He has a known allergy to peanuts and developed symptoms after eating birthday cake at a party. He has been given 0.15mg IM epinephrine 10 minutes ago by his mother. Current vital are: HR 140, BP 85/60, RR 40, O2 98% on NRB. He has some ongoing wheeze noted by EMS.

Case Summary

A 7-year-old male presents with wheeze, rash and increased WOB after eating a birthday cake. He has a known allergy to peanuts. The team must initiate usual anaphylaxis treatment including salbutamol for bronchospasm. The patient will then develop worsened hypotension, requiring the start of an epinephrine infusion. After this the patient will experience increased angioedema, prompting the team to consider intubation. If no paralytic is used for intubation (or if intubation is delayed), the patient will experience laryngospasm. The team will be unable to bag-mask ventilate the patient until they ask for either deeper sedation or a paralytic. If a paralytic is used, the team will be able to successfully intubate the child.

Download the case here: Anaphylaxis

Initial CXR for the case found here:

normal pediatric CXR

(CXR source: http://radiology-information.blogspot.ca/2015/04/normal-chest-x-ray.html)

Post-intubation CXR for the case found here:

Normal Pediatric Post-Intubation CXR

(CXR source: http://jetem.org/ettcxr/)

STEMI with Cardiogenic Shock

This case is written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a staff emergency physician in Hamilton, Ontario and the Simulation Director of McMaster University’s FRCP-EM program. She is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EmSimCases.

Why it Matters

The majority of STEMI presentations to the ED are quite straight-forward to manage: expediency and protocolization are of the utmost importance. However, when a patient presents with cardiogenic shock as a result of their STEMI, more nuanced care is required. In particular, the patient must be stabilized in order to facilitate the definitive treatment of cardiac catheterization. This case highlights some of those nuances, including:

  • The need for vasopressor support and possibly inotropic support in patients with cardiogenic shock
  • The challenges associated with intubating a hypotensive and hypoxic patient
  • The importance of optimizing the patient’s status as best as possible prior to intubation (whether via BiPAP, PEEP valve, push-dose pressors, or otherwise)

Clinical Vignette

A 55-year-old male presents to the ED with EMS as a STEMI activation. He arrives being bagged by EMS for hypoxia. His initial EMS call was for chest pain and he has significantly deteriorated en route. He has a history of smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia. No prior cardiac history.

Case Summary

A 55-year-old man presents to the ED as a STEMI call. He is profoundly hypotensive with low O2 sats and obvious CHF. The patient’s blood pressure will transiently respond to fluid resuscitation. The ECG will show anterolateral ST elevation. The team will need to prepare for intubation while activating the cath lab. They will also need to start vasopressors. The patient will remain hypotensive until an inotrope like dobutamine is initiated. If unsafe medications are chosen for intubation, the patient will have a VT arrest.

Download the case here: STEMI with Cardiogenic Shock

ECG for the case found here:

anterolateral STEMI

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/lateral-stemi/)

Pre-intubation CXR for the case found here:


(CXR source: https://www.med-ed.virginia.edu/courses/rad/cxr/pathology2Bchest.html)

Post-intubation CXR for the case found here:

CHF post intubtation

(CXR source: https://heart-conditions.knoji.com/learning-about-and-coping-with-congestive-heart-failure/)

Lung U/S for the case found here:



Cashing out by buying in – How expensive does a mannequin have to be to call a simulation “high fidelity?”

This critique on simulation fidelity was written by Alia Dharamsi, a PGY 4 in Emergency Medicine at The University of Toronto and 2017 SHRED [Simulation, Health Sciences, Resuscitation for the Emergency Department] Fellow.

How expensive does a mannequin have to be to call a simulation “high fidelity?”


That was the question I was pondering this week, as our SHRED theme this month is simulation in medical education. In my 4th year of residency at University of Toronto, most of my simulation training has been in one of our two simulation labs, using one of our three “high fidelity” mannequins. However, even though the simulation labs and equipment have been very consistent over the past few years, I have found a fluctuating attentiveness and “buy-in” to these simulation sessions: some have felt very real and have resulted in a measurable level of stress and urgency to improve the patient’s (read: mannequin’s) outcome while others have felt like a mandatory hoop through which to jump in order to pass a rotation.

It should not come to anyone’s surprise to note that in Emergency Medicine, simulation is a necessary part of our development as residents. Simulation based medical education allows trainees to meet standards of care and training, mitigates risks to patients, develops clinical competencies, improves patient safety, aids in managing complex patient encounters, and protects patients [1]. Furthermore, in emergency medicine, simulation has allowed me to practice rare and life-saving critical skills like cricothyroidotomies and thoracotomies before employing them in real-time resuscitations. Those who know me will tell you when it comes to simulation I fully support its use as an educational tool, but there does still seem to be an ebb and flow to how much I commit to each sim case that I participate in as a learner.

During a CCU rotation,  I was involved in a relatively simple “chest pain” simulation exercise. As the circulating resident, I was tasked with giving the patient ASA to chew. In that moment I didn’t just simulate giving ASA; I took the yellow lid from an epinephrine kit (it looked like a small circular tablet) and put it in the mannequin’s mouth asking him to chew it. I did not think much of it until our airway resident was preparing to intubate, and the whole case derailed into an “ airway foreign body” scenario—to the confusion of the simulationists sitting behind the window who didn’t know how that foreign body got into the airway in the first place. Why did I do that? I believe it’s because I bought into the scenario, and in my eyes that mannequin was my patient, and my patient needed the ASA to chew. The case of a chest pain—although derailed into a difficult airway case by my earnest delivery of medications—was in the context of a residency rotation where I was expected to manage the CCU independently overnight. That context allowed me to buy-into the case because I knew these skills were transferrable to my role as a CCU resident. My buy-in has had less to do with the mannequin and the physical space and everything to do with how the simulation fit into the greater context of my current training.

There has been discussion amongst simulationists that there should be a frame shift away from fidelity and towards educational effectiveness: helping to engage learners, providing framework and context to aid them in suspending their disbelief, and providing structure to apply the simulation to real-time resuscitations in order to enhance learner engagement [2]. The notion of functional fidelity is one that resonates with me as a budding simulationist; if a learner has an educational goal and is oriented to how the simulation will provide the context and platform to learn that goal, the learner may more easily “project fidelity onto the simulation scenario.” That is, the learner will buy-into the simulation [2].

 So how do we facilitate buy-in?

We can start by orienting learners meaningfully and intentionally to the simulation exercises. [3] This can be accomplished by demonstrating how the concepts from the simulation are transferrable to other contexts which can allow the learners to engage on a deeper level with the simulation and see the greater applicability of what they are learning [2].  We can’t assume learners understand why or how this exercise is applicable to them. A chest pain case for a senior resident in emergency medicine has very different learning outcomes than the same case for an off service junior resident rotating through the ER; the same can be said for a resident primarily working in the hospital or working in an outpatient clinic. Tailoring case objectives to learners specifically provides an opportunity to provide relevant skills to learners in the context of their training, giving them a reason to buy-in to the scenario session. Moving beyond “to learn…” or “to outline the management of…”, I would advocate that specifically outlining objectives for the level and specialties of participating learners will help them see the employability of the skills they gain in the simulation.

We can also use those specific objectives and context we start the simulation session with to foster a more directed debrief. The post-simulation discussion should not only cover medical management principles but also specific discussion about what learners would do if they encountered a similar situation in their specific work environment (clinic, ward, etc), transferring the learning out of the simulation lab and into real world medical practice.

If we are going to see simulation as a tool, let’s see it as one of those fancy screwdrivers with multiple bits, and stop trying to use the screwdriver handle as a hammer for every nail. No one mannequin, regardless of how expensive and how many fancy features it has, can replace the role of a thoughtful facilitator who can help learners buy-into the simulation. If facilitators take the time to orient the learner to their specific learning objectives and then reinforce that context in the debrief discussion, they can increase the functional fidelity of the session and aid learners in maximizing their benefit from each simulation experience.



  1. Ziv, A., Wolpe, P. R., Small, S. D., & Glick, S. (2003). Simulation-Based Medical Education. Academic Medicine, 78(8), 783-788. doi:10.1097/00001888-200308000-00006
  2. Hamstra, S. J., Brydges, R., Hatala, R., Zendejas, B., & Cook, D. A. (2014). Reconsidering Fidelity in Simulation-Based Training. Academic Medicine, 89(3), 387-392. doi:10.1097/acm.0000000000000130
  3. Issenberg, S. B., Mcgaghie, W. C., Petrusa, E. R., Gordon, D. L., & Scalese, R. J. (2005). Features and uses of high-fidelity medical simulations that lead to effective learning: a BEME systematic review. Medical Teacher, 27(1), 10-28. doi:10.1080/01421590500046924


ASA Toxicity

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a staff physician practising in the Greater Toronto Area. She completed her Emergency Medicine training at McMaster University and also obtained a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education.

Why it Matters

Salicylate toxicity, while relatively rare, has fairly nuanced management. It is important for physicians to be aware of presenting features of the toxicity and also of key management steps. Some pearls from this case include:

  • That hypoglycemia (and neuroglycopenia) is a manifestation of ASA toxicity.
  • Urine alkalinization (and correction of hypokalemia) is an important initial treatment for suspected toxicity.
  • Should a patient require intubation, it is paramount to set the ventilator to match the patient’s pre-intubation respiratory rate as best as possible.
  • Dialysis is indicated in intubated patients and also in patients with profoundly altered mental status, high measured ASA levels, and renal failure.

Clinical Vignette

You are working at a community hospital. The triage nurse comes to tell you that they have just put an 82 year-old male in a resuscitation room. He was found unresponsive by his daughter and was brought in by EMS. In triage he was profoundly altered, febrile and hypotensive. His daughter is in the room with him.

Case Summary

The learner will be presented with an altered febrile patient, requiring an initial broad work-up and management plan. The learner will receive a critical VBG report of severe acidosis, hypoglycemia and hypokalemia, requiring management. Following this, the rest of the blood work and investigations will come back, giving the diagnosis of salicylate overdose. The patient’s mental status will continue to decline and learners should proceed to intubate the patient, anticipating issues given the acid-base status. The learner should also initiate urinary alkalinization and make arrangements for urgent dialysis.

Download the case here: ASA Toxicity

ECG for the case found here:

Hypokalemia ECG

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/hypokalaemia/)

Initial CXR for the case found here:

ards pre intubation

(CXR source: http://www.radiology.vcu.edu/programs/residents/quiz/pulm_cotw/PulmonConf/09-03-04/68yM%2008-03-04%20CXR.jpg)

Post-intubation CXR for the case found here:

ARDS post intubation

(CXR source: http://courses.washington.edu/med620/images/mv_c3fig1.jpg)

FAST showing no free fluid found here:

no FF

Pericardial U/S showing no PCE found here:

Abdominal U/S showing no AAA found here:

no AAA

All U/S images are courtesy of McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program.

Aortic Stenosis with A Fib and CHF

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a staff physician practising in the Greater Toronto Area. She completed her Emergency Medicine training at McMaster University along with a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education.

Why it Matters

The management of patients with aortic stenosis can be tenuous at the best of times. When these patients present with CHF or dysrhythmias, their management is much more nuanced than the typical patient presenting with the same complaints. This case nicely highlights the following management differences:

  • The need for expedient rate control in a patient with aortic stenosis (in this case, most safely accomplished via cardioversion)
  • The need for judicious treatment of CHF, including careful diuresis and avoiding nitroglycerin use
  • The importance of early consultation with both cardiac surgery and cardiology

Clinical Vignette

A 78-year-old male presents via EMS with 4 days of increased SOB. The triage nurse comes to tell you she has put him in the resuscitation bay due to unstable vitals. HR was in the 150s. The O2SAT was 86% on RA when EMS arrived, but is now 95% on a NRB.

Case Summary

A 78-year-old male presents with increased SOB over the past 4 days. A recent ECHO will be presented showing severe AS. The ECG will demonstrate new A Fib with a HR of 150 and the CXR will show CHF. The patient will be normotensive at first but will become hypotensive shortly after. The team will then need to decide whether to cardiovert the patient or attempt rate control. If these are done safely, the patient will respond and then develop worsening CHF. Definitive management should be sought with early cardiology/cardiac surgery consult. If management is not carried out judiciously, the patient will become profoundly hypotensive.

Download the case here: Aortic Stenosis with A Fib and CHF

Initial ECG for the case found here:

ECG- A.fib + LVH

(ECG source: http://www.wikidoc.org/index.php/Atrial_fibrillation_EKG_examples)

Second ECG for the case (after cardioversion) found here:


(ECG source: http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/409/resources/image/bp/5.html)

CXR for the case found here:


(CXR source: https://www.med-ed.virginia.edu/courses/rad/cxr/pathology2Bchest.html)

Lung ultrasound for the case found here:

Pediatric DKA

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is an Emergency physician practising in the Greater Toronto Area. She completed her Emergency Medicine training at McMaster University and also obtained a fellowship in simulation and medical education during her training.

Why it Matters

DKA is a reasonably common presentation to the ED. However, it requires several important steps in its management in order to prevent harm. This is especially true in children, where the rates of cerebral edema are higher. This case highlights several important features in the management of Pediatric DKA, including:

  • That there is no role for an insulin bolus.
  • That the precipitant of DKA must always be considered (in this case, it is appendicitis)
  • That cerebral edema is a known complication of DKA and must be managed immediately with a reduction in the insulin and fluid rates as well as with either mannitol or hypertonic saline

We have previously published a case of Pediatric DKA on emsimcases. Today’s case is unique in that it begins with the learners providing advice over the phone to a physician who is less comfortable managing DKA.  We have chosen to publish on this topic a second time as a way to emphasizes how cases on the same topic can be designed with different objectives in mind. The objectives (and therefore the case design) can lead to very different learning experiences. We have no doubt that this new case will also lead to excellent debriefing and evidence review with learners – it certainly does when we run it for our senior residents at McMaster University!

Case Summary

The learners receive a call from a peripheral hospital about transferring an unwell 8-year-old girl with new DKA. She has been incorrectly managed, receiving a 20cc/kg bolus for initial hypotension as well as an insulin bolus of 8 units (adult sliding scale dose for glucose of >20). The learner must perform a telephone consultation and dictate new orders. On arrival, EMS will state that they lost the IV en route, and the patient will become more somnolent in the ED. The learner should begin empiric treatment for likely cerebral edema and concurrently manage the DKA. Physical exam will show a peritonitic abdomen with guarding in the RLQ. Empiric Abx should be started for likely appendicitis. Due to decreasing neurologic status and vomiting, the patient will eventually require an advanced airway. The challenge is to optimize the peri-intubation course and ventilation to allow for compensation of her metabolic acidosis.

Clinical Vignette

Outside Patch: We have an 8-year-old female we want to send for DKA. She presented after feeling generally “unwell” for 3 days, with some accompanying abdominal pain and vomiting. Her blood glucose came back at 24 with a pH of 7.15 and HCO3 of 12, so we made the diagnosis of DKA. She received a 20mL/kg bolus for hypotension (BP 90/60) and Humulin R 8 unit bolus (as per our hospital sliding scale). What do you want for insulin and fluids before we send her?

Download the case here: Pediatric DKA

Post-intubation CXR for the case found here:


(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)

STEMI with Bradycardia

This case is written by Dr. Rob Woods. He works in both the adult and pediatric emergency departments in Saskatoon and has been working in New Zealand for the past year. He is the founder and director of the FRCP EM residency program in Saskatchewan.

Why it Matters

This case requires learners to coordinate multiple components of care at once. A patient presenting with a STEMI requires urgent PCI, however they must also be stable enough to safely travel to the cardiac catheterization lab. This case emphasizes important adjuncts to STEMI management in an unstable patient, including:

  • The utility of transcutaneous pacing and epinephrine infusion in the context of symptomatic bradycardia
  • The importance of recognizing complete heart block as a complication of a STEMI
  • The need for intubation in order to facilitate medication administration and safe transport in a PCI-requiring patient who presents with severe CHF or altered LOC

Clinical Vignette

To be stated by the bedside nurse: “This 65-year-old woman came in with 1 hour of chest pressure and SOB. Her O2 sats were 84% on RA at triage, and they are now 90% with a non-rebreather mask. She’s also bradycardic at 30 and hypotensive at 77/40.”

Case Summary

A 65-year-old female is brought to the ED with chest tightness and SOB. On arrival, she will be found to have an inferior STEMI with resultant 3rd degree heart block and hypotension. The team will be expected to initiate vasopressor support and transcutaneous pacing. However, prior to doing so, the patient will develop a VT arrest requiring ACLS care. After ROSC, the team will need to initiate transcutaneous pacing and activate the cath lab for definitive management.

Download the case here: STEMI with Bradycardia

ECG for the case found here:

Inferior STEMI with CHB

(ECG source: http://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/inferior-stemi/)

CXR for the case found here:


(CXR source: https://www.med-ed.virginia.edu/courses/rad/cxr/pathology2Bchest.html)

Serotonin Syndrome

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University who also completed a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education last year.

Why it Matters

This case is an example of why it is important to keep a broad differential in our patients. It would be easy to assume this patient has sepsis and to form cognitive biases around only this as a possible presentation. Instead, by maintaining a broad differential diagnosis, a relatively rare presentation is recognized. This case highlights the following:

  • The presenting features of serotonin syndrome: agitation, confusion, clonus, and hyperthermia
  • The management priorities in serotonin syndrome include both minimizing patient agitation with benzodiazepines and aggressive cooling
  • The potential for sodium channel blockade (and a resultant wide QRS pattern on ECG) with cocaine use
  • The potential for patients with a prolonged QT interval to develop Torsades de Pointes
  • The need to treat Torsades de Pointes with magnesium sulfate and defibrillation

Case Summary

A 27-year-old female presents hot and altered to the ED with EMS. Likely cause is serotonin syndrome, precipitated by being on citalopram and methadone in the setting of a recent cocaine binge (all increase serotonin levels). She will develop Torsades de Pointes as a complication which must be treated with MgSO4. She will become increasingly agitated and febrile, requiring IV benzodiazepines, active cooling, and consideration of intubation with paralysis to achieve normothermia.

Clinical Vignette

A 27-year-old female was found by her boyfriend this morning seeming confused and warm. He called EMS. She has a history of opioid abuse and is on methadone, but he swears that she has takes this as prescribed and has not done any prescription pain meds lately. They did “party a lot yesterday,” but she was otherwise well, with no complaints of fever before today. With EMS the patient was noted to be diaphoretic, febrile and quite agitated. She has been placed in a resuscitation bay.

Download the case here: Serotonin Syndrome

1st ECG for the case (long QT and wide QRS) found here:

Wide QRS

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/tca-overdose/)

2nd ECG for the case (long QT) found here:


(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/qt_interval/)

3rd ECG for the case (Torsades de Pointes) found here:

Torsades ECG

(ECG source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torsades_de_pointes)

Normal CXR found here:

normal female CXR radiopedia

(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/normal-chest-radiograph-female-1)

Post-intubation CXR found here:


(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)